Book Review: Stories at Work
“Humans think in stories, rather than facts, numbers or equations and the simpler story.”
– Yuval Harari
No stories please, just the facts
In business settings though, storytelling has the connotation of someone concocting a false explanation to cover up an error. Business settings celebrate efficiency. We have all slept through numerous presentations where the presenters begin with slides crammed with text and reams of data presented in a hard-to-read font. You are immediately reminded of the numerous emails that are pending. The presenter ploughs through more slides. Suddenly someone’s phone starts playing a WhatsApp video. Your colleague gives a sheepish grin and apologizes. That reminds you that you have not checked WhatsApp messages for a while. You are busy forwarding jokes on WhatsApp when you hear the presenter ask, “Any questions?” Everyone is quiet. The meeting ends.
Why storytelling at work
Does the same thing happen when you are presenting information or describing your strategies to the frontline? Stories at Work by Indranil Chakraborty is just the book for you. It tells you in a structured way (and through stories) how to start thinking about stories.
Indranil draws upon many references and many anecdotes to share stories that will trigger stories in your head. Yes, that is something that happens to us when you listen to a story. Powerful stories stay with us forever.
An interesting workplace will always have stories. If you have no interesting stories about your workplace and colleagues, then you should be worried. It is the sign of a disengaged workforce.
The commencement address by Steve Jobs at Stanford has been viewed more than 30 million times. The speech is a masterclass in storytelling.
When you come across an old photo, you recall a story. Suddenly a date becomes significant. Milestone events get etched in our mind because our brain has created a little PostIt note and created a special place for it. By the way, where were you on 11 September 2001? You may be racking your brains to leaf through the pages of your memory. But as soon as you read the story, everything falls into place.
On a clear, sunny late summer day in September 2001, Al Qaeda terrorists aboard three hijacked passenger planes carried out coordinated suicide attacks against the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., killing everyone on board the planes and nearly 3,000 people on the ground.
As soon as you hear the story you recall everything about that day so vividly. These images have become part of our collective memory.
The power of storytelling
Here is Indranil talking about the power of stories
How do you find stories that you can tell at work? Stories at Work talks about “Story-Listening” – a method by which you learn to tune in and collect stories you can use.
You can start building your share of stories by remembering unusual incidents from your life.
- Listen to stories others tell you
- The business books
- Look for stories around your workplace.
An interesting workplace will always have stories. If you have no interesting stories at work, that is a sign of a disengaged workforce. That’s what I have always seen. If nothing unusual happens in your workplace, then you are unlikely to find stories. Because anything normal is not a story. ( here's why - click this)
Stories at Work is a great myth buster. It tells you about every situation when you can use stories. Whether you are the salesperson or the CEO, being a good storyteller is a terrific skill to have. Reading this book is a good start.